Spain brushed aside any fears of dissension in the camp after beating Costa Rica 3-0 in their opening World Cup Group C match.
He entered the tournament somewhat in doubt after a disagreement with his federation saw several key players pull themselves out of the competition this summer, including influential Barcelona midfielder Petri Guijarro.
However, the players who were on show produced a masterclass in possession play and fluidity – emblematic of Aitana Bonmati’s brilliance – albeit without the precise finishing that could have made the scoreline more favourable.
Spain’s sustained pressure forced the opener as Valeria del Campo turned Esther Gonzalez’s cross into her own net in the 21st minute, capping a disastrous six-minute period that handed the European side complete control.
Bonamati held off further progress in the 23rd minute before curling a stunning strike into the far corner, while four minutes later González fired an effort past hapless goalkeeper Daniela Soleira, who was at least able to find some consolation as she dislodged Jennifer Hermoso’s tame spot-kick before half-time.
What to watch on Sky Sports this week?
151st Open – 20 to 23 July – Live on Sky Sports Golf
4th Men’s Ashes Test – 19 to 23 July – Live on Sky Sports Cricket
premier league summer series – From 23 July – Live on Sky Sports Premier League
Hungarian Grand Prix – 21 to 23 July – Live on Sky Sports F1
F1 Juniors: Hungarian GP – 23 July – Live on Sky Sports Mix
world matchplay darts – 17 to 23 July – Live on Sky Sports Action
Women’s World Matchplay Darts – 22 to 23 July – Live on Sky Sports Action
IBF Lightweight Title Eliminator – 23 July – Live on Sky Sports Action
The goals fell short after the break, with Solera playing a key role in keeping the scoreline respectable for the relatively inexperienced Costa Ricans, but any implication that Spain were plagued by pre-tournament bickering was swiftly dispelled.
How Spain’s six-minute raid sealed victory
Costa Rica was perhaps the perfect opening opponent for Spain, whose pre-tournament preparations were dominated by talk of a feud between head coach Jorge Villada and his talented squad.
As a result, several key players opted to make themselves unavailable for selection, although such is Spain’s strength in depth, it was impossible to tell as they took early control of Group C ahead of Japan’s game against Zambia on Saturday.
When the teams met each other in their World Cup debut in 2015, they played out a draw, but since then Spain have risen to sixth in FIFA’s official rankings, and this showed in their technical dominance as they dominated Costa Rica.
Spain enjoyed 117 touches in Costa Rica’s box and 46 shots on goal, but an onslaught that lasted six minutes in the first half secured an easy victory.
The opener, due to some clumsy defending, missed the boot of Del Campo, but the following two were drawn by the art and creativity of Spain’s particularly lively forward line.
The first started with brilliance from Bonamati as he danced around defenders before bending a sweet strike into the left-hand corner, while some clever improvisation from Gonzalez to lift the ball beyond Solera produced the killer flick.
Dual Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putelas was named as Spain’s only substitute as she battled her way back to full fitness, but made a 13-minute cameo late in the second half – with bright pink hair.
What is the schedule?
The group stage has started and will go on for a period of two weeks 3 August The group winners and runners-up advance to the Round of 16, which takes place from 5 august To August 8,
The quarter-finals, which will be held in Wellington, Auckland, Brisbane and Sydney, are scheduled 11th and 12th August,
After this the first semi-final will be played August 15 The second semi-final will be held in Auckland 16 august at Accor Stadium in Sydney, which will then host the final 20 august,
The third place play-off will be played a day before the final 19 august in Brisbane.